Capstar Chauffeurs By Kitty Buchanan-Gregory
How one luxury chauffeur service is helping ex-forces personnel on the road to recovery….
I meet Charlie Bowmont on a freezing cold day in Hyde Park, where he’d kindly agreed to meet me for this interview. However, the black lab had done what black labs do best, and rolled in vulpine perfume that was sending tourists running. I had to screech a warning as he bent down to pat her, but thankfully he seemed unperturbed by both the smell and then being forced to sit outside in the biting wind.
We meet to talk about Capstar, his luxury chauffeur service which employs ex-forces personnel including, but not exclusively, those who have been injured in service, often losing limbs. I have many friends who, over the last 10 or so years, have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan in bits and pieces, both physically and mentally, so the idea of a company that helps to offer a respectful civilian employment after recovery is indeed welcome.
An ex-Captain in the Blues and Royals, he himself has seen operation, and when he left service found himself in the same position as most ranks – what next?
So, why chauffeuring? “I wanted to work out a way we could help my guys into employment after they’d left,” he says. “We looked at the character traits of soldiers; highly trained and skilled, trustworthy, and they excel as being part of a team. We played around with professions that suited these skills and what company we could realistically and quickly set up, and a luxury chauffeur concept seemed to tick all the boxes.”
It’s a strategy that has worked well – with a fleet of Jaguar XJs, their current clients include private equity, hedge fund, and many FTSE 100 financial firms who all want to protect their ultimate assets – their senior staff. “All our drivers have been through advanced driving training and are security trained, which in the current climate helps give our clients reassurance that we can handle any situation,” Bowmont reveals. “When you have a high profile CEO or foreign visitors coming over, we will ensure they are always protected.”
He stresses that they are not a security firm which offers driving, but a luxury chauffeur company that offers premium service. It just happens that your suited driver and regimental tie is exactly who you’d want to make you feel safe and secure, even on an ordinary day in the city.
This isn’t a firm with an app and bookings are for a minimum of an airport run – so what does the future hold? “We’ve built up a strong relationship with our existing clients and they are now asking us to look after their wives, private HNWIs and VIP guests for events as well as the day-to-day corporate work,” Bowmont says. “The guys take great pride in helping us grow the company, and the more we grow, the more ex-forces guys we can employ.”
As I listen to him talk, it’s clear what matters to Bowmont most is the welfare of others, the safety of his customers, and the wellbeing and training of his drivers, or “the lads,” as he calls them. He even provides them with Roderick Charles suits and bespoke Emma Willis shirts so they look the part and feel good. Any man who puts others before himself is clearly a good leader, battlefield or otherwise.
However, as he braves a final pat for the lab, we leave to walk home in the rain, too stinky for even the bus!